The Victorian Court of Appeal today unanimously confirmed that the Victorian Government acted unlawfully in transferring children to the Barwon adult jail. The Court was hearing an appeal against last week's Supreme Court ruling.
Hugh de Kretser, Executive Director at the Human Rights Law Centre, said, “Jailing children in the state’s most notorious adult prison was a terrible mistake. The government needs to house these children in a safe, lawful and appropriate facility.”
Claudia Fatone, Executive Officer at the Fitzroy Legal Service, said, “Putting children in an adult prison was wrong to begin with. It was bad for the children and bad for community safety. The government needs to house these children in a safe environment with proper schooling to give them a chance to reach their potential.”
Last week, the Supreme Court documented evidence of the cruel conditions the children were held in including extended solitary confinement in small cells, extremely limited time outdoors, children being handcuffed to and from the outdoor area, dogs being used in the unit, threats of tear gas, limited family contact and no access to proper schooling.
“It would have been good if the government had responded to last week’s ruling with a plan to get the children out of Barwon adult prison. Instead, the children spent Christmas in illegal detention at the state’s most notorious jail,” said Mr de Kretser.
“There’s no doubt the government has a policy challenge on its hands, but cruelty to children can never be the answer,” added Ms Fatone.
Fitzroy Legal Service and the Human Rights Law Centre launched the legal challenge after the government settled an earlier case by agreeing not to transfer any Aboriginal children to the adult jail.
Last Wednesday, the Supreme Court ruled that the government acted unlawfully in transferring the children to the adult jail. The Court found that the government failed to properly consider the human rights of the children and was “flying blind” as to “the real situation and suitability of Grevillea unit” at the Barwon prison.
There are currently around 12 children held at the Barwon adult prison.
Hugh de Kretser, Human Rights Law Centre, 0403 965 340
Claudia Fatone, Fitzroy Legal Service, 0403 234 156